Most days, you can find Kim White swimming to the buoy at Cabrillo Beach with the Cabrillo Beach Polar Bears. A fitness trainer and triathlete with a doctorate, she swims year-round without a wetsuit despite the water temperature. In April, White will begin a new role in her life, exalted ruler (president) of the San Pedro Elks, the highest leadership position at the Elks. She will be the first woman in the club’s 118-year history to serve in this role.
White has been a member of the San Pedro lodge for 18 years, serving in various volunteer leadership roles, including lodge chaplain. Women were allowed to join the Elks nationally 25 years ago, while San Pedro Elks opened up membership to women 21 years ago. Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn was one of the first female members.
“Our lodge shows women that they can be members and make a positive difference in the community,” states White. “I did not plan on being the first woman exalted ruler. My heart is with the lodge, and my choices in my different leadership roles were sensible and always for the benefit of the lodge.”
The Elks, a nonprofit agency, is a charity-driven organization whose main philanthropic focus is veterans; however, they also donate to other nonprofits and charitable organizations. The San Pedro club, which was founded in 1905, recently donated $8,500 to Toberman House to support children and families in need. Local Elks members visit the VA Hospital to volunteer to feed veterans, provide drug awareness to youth in the community, and hold a Hoop Shoot event. The local lodge applies for grants to fund local charities and scholarships for college and trade school students. Purple Piggy Banks around the lodge encourage members to drop coins for charity.
The San Pedro Elks, perched on a hill overlooking San Pedro, is renowned for sweeping harbor views and was rebuilt after an arson fire in 2014. There were issues with the insurance, which did not cover all the costs to rebuild, resulting in the lodge taking out a $5 million loan. There are approximately 2,400 members who pay $400 per year, with a $200 induction fee when initially joining. To join, prospective candidates must be sponsored by existing members.
The San Pedro lodge is considered one of the top ten lodges in the country. An upgraded swimming pool overlooks the ocean and offers water aerobics (nonmembers can pay to participate) and an outside barbeque with food to purchase. The lodge spends $700 monthly to heat the pool, which stays cool during the rainy season to save funds. The Elks are looking into solar heating options. The lodge holds big pool parties on July 4th and Labor Day with a DJ and concerts and offers dinners on some weekends. There is a co-ed gym, wet sauna, horseshoe court, and three tennis courts, with one designated for pickleball.
The dining area offers reasonably priced drinks, happy hours, and meals for members and guests. At 11 p.m. at every Elks Club around the country, there is a toast and the tolling of 11 chimes for departed Elks members. The lodge is rented out for banquets, meetings, and weddings.
“The lodge offers great amenities, and members can visit seven days a week; it is also a good way to network,” says White.
The Elks is a place for neighbors to come together and give back to the community and where children grow up swimming in the pool. For White, despite her busy schedule at the Elks, there is one thing she will always fit into her daily life, swimming to the buoy. spt
For more information about the Elks, visit sanpedroelks.org or call (310) 831-0624.